Mutants & Chimaeras

Three Man-Made Freaks
& One Beauty All Her Own

To be riveting, a view of the future has to be unsettling, unfamiliar, disturbing even. The whole sci-fi genre is built upon fears of the unexpected, the threat of chaos taking over natural order. In fact, it should first get rid of concepts such as natural and order altogether.
It’s a completely different animal when that extends to our world, and it affects, well, animals. Uneasy when it’s warm in winter? check. Nervous with melting glaciers? check. But have you seen a two-headed snake lately? An odd butterfly? What about a human-milk producing goat?
And the worst part of it all is, we did that. Our so proud species, capable of writing symphonies or reaching for the moon, can also act ever so casually towards that same natural world that was around billions of years before us. And treat Earth as our landfill.
It gets personal when we’re talking about living, breathing, beautiful beings, of course. For the record, though, we’re no prudes; nature has been creating oddities since forever, and to consider it ‘gentle’ is a fatal, wishy-washy mistake, often deservedly punishable by death.
But exactly because we claim to be a step higher of the brutal and uncontrollable forces of the wild, it’s also our responsibility to own up our flaws. For every once in a while, the unpredictable tops itself and produces a creature of rare beauty, even if it may frighten us a bit.

NATURE’S SCARY MONSTERS
You may say that all animals are routinely harmed in ways our civilization considers acceptable: though the condition that produces a two-face specimen has been around since ancient times, but it seems to be increasingly linked to chemical pollution. The odd butterflies were found around Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plants. And genetic engineering is behind the goats with human milk.
Scary, isn’t it? What man has joined, nature is powerless to put asunder, wrote Aldous Huxley in his 1931 nightmarish, but no longer that far from the present, view of the future. Brave New World may have anticipated out thirst for cellphones, and social media, and gadgets to tell us what to do next, even without mentioning it. Our very best wishes usually lead us to committed misguided deeds.

TRANSGENIC SEEDS & GOATS
Surviving on this planet have been always complex, but for as long as natural resources seemed unlimited, we’ve managed it. We’re too many now, though, and such a demographics explosion is virtually intractable. Thus at times, we cheat a bit, just to catch our breath.
Consider hunger: we produce more food than ever before, and yet, many still go to sleep hungry or die of starvation. Science does its part the only way it knows: by trial and painstakingly error, experimenting with this and attempting to use that. But since food is also a big, multi-billion business, so not every side is playing by the rules.
It’s in this vacuum that corporations seize research, and rush to market unproven technologies. After all, there are profits to be made. Genetic manipulation may hold the key to create super crops, able (more)
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Read Also:
* Finger Picking
* Nuking the Future
* X-Rated Fruit

Continue reading

The Morning After

For Those Who’ll
Feel Like Losers

Ok, so you’ve worked hard – or didn’t do a thing – and your candidate still didn’t win. Don’t feel too bad: fate is as fate does, but in case you’re wondering, it was absolutely your fault. Now let’s save you some bucks for the four years worthy of therapy ahead, shall we?
Choices are few and involve major changes, just what you were trying your best to avoid. Regardless, you’re here now. Assuming that you’ve already called for refills of your acid reflux prescription, plus a few bottles of extra strength Tums, next thing to do it to cope.
Relax, help is on its way, so you won’t despair alone. Yes, it feels as if you won’t be able to even look at your new president without gagging. But worst have happened to you, and you did just fine, right? Well, let’s not get into that now. The working word here is survive.
And you will endure, and abide, and stomach (did we mention Rolaids?). You’ll even learn to conjugate similar verbs because you must. For the love of heavens, everyone will beg you to. But in case you falter, we’ve put together a short list of strategies to help you out. You’re welcome.
But before you yell at your computer, on the account of our meek picks, let us cover our behinds with the appropriate disclaimer: no, this is not everything. And if you’re already into yoga, meditation, or just joined the circus or a cult, you shouldn’t be on the Internet anyway. Unless, of course, you aren’t sure about your choices. We feel you.
May your horse come ahead, and you don’t lose your you-know-what over this election. But if things go south and going north sounds no longer remote, print this list; you’ll have less than two months to pack and split. Tell everyone you’re off to get the paper and have a go. Either way, good luck to you.

WHY NOT (CALL YOUR AGENT &) LEAVE?
The Celebrity DeLite. Many have actually said so, probably thinking about that mega production being cast in Europe, as we speak. If they say Oh Canada, they’re likely Canadians. But if you too can afford it, by all means: kick the tires and sell the farm. Don’t forget to call Mom.
Since you’re no Bryan Cranston, you may consider going where you’re actually needed. A few years making new friends, maybe even learning a new language, and you may find that losing this election was your biggest victory. Just kidding. No, seriously, you may never have a better excuse.

EAT ROOMS, DIG ACID, TRY AYAHUASCA
The Turn On, Drop Out Solution. Yes, this one is not for everybody (we also hope that kids are already in bed as your read this). But stay with it for a moment. First of all, no one is telling you to become drug addicted, just so to deal with harsh politics.
In fact, Ayahuasca has being a success at curing (more)
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Read Also:
* Binders Full of It
* Pre-Existing Conditions
* Polls & Tallies

Continue reading

Second Variety

Designing a Creature
That Will Hunt Us Down

Animatronics research is making so many strides lately that soon Disney theme parks won’t need actors donning smelly Mickey customs to scare the living hell out of little children. Robots will be able to do just that, and more, in their place. Bad news to actors, of course.
Androids may be close to pounce on you on your vacations, out of malfunctioning or pure evil, but the real scare may be other fields tapping into their sophistication. The military, for instance. Something to be expected, for sure, but still no less disturbing.
It didn’t happen overnight, but suddenly pop culture is saturated with the idea that a dawn of the automaton is imminent, even sooner than the one of rotten zombis. And while trying to keep apace with the expectation, science is landing us on some tricky territory.
Call it a land of opportunity, as announced on Blade Runner, or the brave new world of old Aldous Huxley. Say that Philip K. Dick had it all figured it out, or that religion created the original Other, in the form of invisible beings who exist to serve, or curse us to death.
Just don’t say you were not forewarned. For if you give it a thought or two, what with super population, and income inequality, and all that can spoil your dinner, who really needs yet another cast of dependent beings to keep even more people out of things to do?
THE MOMENT THEY’LL WAKE UP
That assuming that they will remain dependent, and existing to the sole purpose of fulfilling our every whim. Because if they don’t, and turn into our lords, there’ll be no point for ‘I told you sos,’ specially if we’ll all be their slaves, tethered to some infernal contraption.
So yes, by now you may’ve gathered that we are kinda excited about Westworld, the upcoming TV series inspired by the old Michael Crichton movie. And that this is a shameless attempt to flag the insane human desire to play god to manufactured creatures, all the while deflating our own expectations.
For however good the series turn out to be it’ll probably pale in comparison with Second Variety, an 1953 P.K.D. story, or even the considerably downgraded 1995 movie based on it, Screamers. That’s when the concept of self-run machines has been taken to just about the threshold of everyone’s nightmares.
REHEARSING FOR THE BIG CHASE
After all, we’ve been trying to build them, either by faith or ingenuity, since time immemorial. The more we see them embodied albeit pixelated, the closer we get to fully realize their feasibility. We’ll embrace them and run for our dear lives, all at the same time, while technology will, once again, overcome our moral ambivalence.
Thus these related posts below, about Artificial Intelligence and robotics, the two fields whose merge will at last produce what already appears inevitable: creation of an artificial but sentient being to run amok exactly the way we’ve been dreading all along. Just like we told you so. Speaking of theme parks, enjoy the ride.

Not Human

Humanoids to Replace
Body Parts, Not Maids

Mankind’s ancient dream of creating automatons that can stand in for us, when our bodies no longer function properly, got a bit closer to reality not long ago. Thanks to research developed at Brown University, two stroke victims, long unable to move or speak, managed to control a robotic arm solely with their minds.
The good news couldn’t come anytime sooner: just a few days earlier, a Tokyo-based robotics developer team had announced the creation of a highly interactive, and disturbingly human-like, pair of buttocks, that responds to touch and stimuli. To be honest, the robotic butt got us thinking where on earth was this kind of research going.
In a way, it all comes full circle, you see. The development of humanoids, capable of simulate emotions and be responsive to sound, sight and touch, has been making great strides, specially by Japanese engineers. Sometimes, their extreme similitude to humans is quite frightening and one is led to think of Blade Runner-type of nightmarish visions of the future.
At the same time, albeit running in a parallel track, research on artificial intelligence and nanotechnology is also well advanced. The combination of these two fields, so far only partial, does suggest that reality is tracking closely the visions that science-fiction authors had conceived long ago.
To be sure, what’s been studied at Brown diverge fundamentally from research on androids, even though they both follow the same principle: to emulate the human ability of combining thought-processing with physical acts.

GOOD ROBOT, BAD ROBOT
But whereas at Brown, the practical applications are already evident, the objectives of research into the development of humanoid robots lack clarity, for except in the case of slave labor, is hard to imagine why (more)
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Read Also:
* Man Made
* Hallow Talk
Continue reading

Scary Monsters

Three Man-Made Mutants
& One Beauty All Her Own

To be riveting, a view of the future has to be unsettling, unfamiliar, disturbing even. The whole sci-fi genre is built upon fears of the unexpected, the threat of chaos taking over natural order. In fact, it should first get rid of concepts such as natural and order altogether.
It’s a completely different animal when that extends to our real and present world, and it affects, well, animals. Feel uneasy when it’s warm in winter? check. Nervous with melting glaciers? check. But have you seen a two-headed snake lately? Or an abnormal butterfly? What about a human-milk producing goat?
And the worst part of it all is, we did that. Our so proud species, capable of writing symphonies or reaching for the moon, can also act ever so casually towards that same natural world that was around billions of years before us. And treat Earth as our landfill.
It gets personal when we’re talking about living, breathing, beautiful beings, of course. For the record, though, we’re no prudes; nature has been creating monsters since the beginning of times, and to consider it ‘gentle’ is a fatal, wishy-washy misconception, often deservedly punishable by death.
But exactly because we claim to be a step higher of the brutal and uncontrollable forces of the wild, it’s also our responsibility to own up our flaws. Thank goodness then that every once in a while the unpredictable tops itself and produces a creature of rare beauty, even if not as esthetically pleasing as nature is so used to producing.
You may say that all animals below were indeed harmed by ways our civilization considers acceptable: the condition that produces a two-face species has been around since ancient times, but it seems to be increasingly connected with chemical pollution. The odd butterflies were found around Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plants. And genetic engineering is behind the goats with human milk.
Scary indeed, isn’t it? “What man has joined, nature is powerless to put asunder,” wrote Aldous Huxley in his 1931 nightmarish view of the future, Brave New World. And the thing is, we want that, just like we wanted cellphones, and social networks, and machines to tell us Continue reading

Ah, the Dutch

The Birthday of Two Willems,
An Excuse to Celebrate Holland

The Netherlands has a special place in the heart of New York and its role in the city’s history helped forged its profound differences from other U.S. cities. Since today is the 108th birthday of a famous Dutch New Yorker painter, Willem de Kooning, we thought we take a moment to gather some of the latest, and quirkiest, highlights from the land known around the world as the Low Countries.
Today is also the 479th birthday of another Willem, a prince known as the Silent or Willem the Orange, with a passing connection to New York. So as we celebrate these two, let’s stop by at a Repair Cafe to fix something broken, check an amazing street-making machine, choose a snack from the Insect Cookbook, and see how long is the wait for the world’s first lab-grown meat to be served.
For a relatively small country sitting mostly under sea level, the Netherlands‘ has had an admirable influence over world culture. During the Renaissance and the Enlightenment era, seminal artists and philosophers came from or made their home there, and arguably, the liberal ideals thriving in the period infused ‘the island at the center of the world,’ New York, with its diversity and unique agnostic spirit.
While most European nations were mired in bloody, thousand-year fanatical wars, Holland was the cradle of the humanities and religious pluralism. It was the defeat of William the Silent’s eldest son, Dutch governor of Brazil Johan Maurits van Nassau, by the Portuguese, and Continue reading